Leadership Case: Toto Wolff’s big decision

January 4, 2015

A Leadership We Deserve Student Case Study

Mercedes chief Toto Wolff faced a big decision when the two stars of his Formula One team became bitter rivals.

In 2014, Mercedes quickly demonstrated the superiority of its F1 cars. Within a few races, it became clear the Mercedes team would win the Constructor’s championship easily. In every race, their two drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg finished first and second. except when prevented by technical retirements in a small number of races.

The problem

The problem was that only one of the drivers could win the prestigious driver’s competition. The battle between the two became intense, risking a collision through a misjudged overtaking move.

Wolff discussed the situation with the drivers, and warned them about the consequences.

The collision

At the Belgium Grand Prix, the feared collision took place.

Rosberg appeared to have collided at high speed and recklessly with Hamilton, putting Hamilton out of the race. It was even suggested that the move was deliberate.

What would you do in Toto Wolff’s place?


Who owns Old Trafford?

August 1, 2013

Who owns the iconic Old Trafford football stadium, home to Manchester United Football Club? A council decision raises complex legal issues

The legal answer is the Glazer family following a controversial takeover in 2005.  However, Manchester United Supporters Trust [MUST]  have been granted rights at Old Trafford stadium if the club is ever sold, through a ruling of the local council.

An Asset of Community Value

This ruling classes the ground as an Asset Of Community Value. Unsurprisingly, the current owners of the club anticipate legal implications in the ruling. For example, would a decision to change the club’s name to strengthen its financial position be affected? Would the value in a future sale be influenced?

To the non-legal eye

To the non-legal eye, it all looks rather peculiar. The Trust talks of representing ‘the fans’. I can see the symbolic weight in this. But wait a minute. A few months ago, figures were published claiming a measurable proportion of the World’s population could be classed as Manchester United fans. It could be argued that The Supporters Trust represents millions of fans world wide, or maybe only its signed-up members.

No trivial issue

This is no trivial issue. In the UK at the moment, The Trades Union movement is currently embroiled in a debate regarding the rights they have over the Labour Party, though the individual subscriptions of its members, its block votes representing those member at Labour Party conferences, and its influence over the political policies of The Labour Party. Much politicking is taking place over the rights of individual members (some who are not Labour supporters) to opt out of the political levy included in the existing arrangements.

Which brings us back to Manchester United, its fans, and its legal owners.

Squatters rights and just cause

Another lens through which to examine the story: Various cases have been tested in court throughout the years over squatters rights and tenants rights. Common law principles are often evoked. The cases can become highly fraught, as the parties of weaker power resort to increasingly illegal methods outside the courtrooms, acting in what the individuals under threat believe to be on behalf of a just cause.

Which makes for good newspaper stories. Sometimes victory goes to the just, although more often to the powerful.


Should the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) be responsible for player safety on the ice?

November 20, 2012

Guy H.J. Bourbonnière,
Director of Canadian Healthcare & Educational Markets, and Comprehensive & Energy Solutions,
Ingersoll Rand

During this spring’s Hockey playoffs, Phoenix Coyotes winger Raffi Torres applied a vicious hit to the head of star player Marian Hossa of the Chicago Hawks. The National Hockey League imposed a 25 game suspension, which was quickly appealed by the Players association. The case reveals some interesting dilemmas.

An odd assumption

The NHLPA is made up of athlete members and executive leaders with the mandate to represent the players of the National Hockey League (NHL) and to guarantee that their rights as players are upheld under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. One of the odd assumptions is the players expect the NHL to protect their association members from one other’s misdemeanors.

The new collective bargaining agreement

The NHLPA is in the news [October 2012] as players come together to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the NHL. There is no mention of the recent on-ice assaults.

The dilemma that the NHLPA player leaders have, is that while they attempt to work together to improve the financial position and working conditions of players, they also compete against each other every time they play a hockey game.

The game is quick, violent and dangerous. Often players break the rules to inflict forms of intimidation against each other (i.e. fellow association members) to win a game.

In fact, the NHL has to put new measures in place regularly to deter fellow association members from hurting each other in both premeditated and spontaneous violent actions. It is a real irony that the NHL has to impose regulations to protect fellow association members from each other.

Sometimes simple, sometimes serious

These regulations may be as simple as penalizing a team and player for a short period of time by reducing the number of players they can have on the ice surface during play. In more serious cases, the player can be suspended for a number of games, and forfeit his pay for those games that he is suspended.

On a regular basis, the NHLPA appeals these suspensions to protect the rights of the offending player. I wonder how the victim of the assault feels when his own player’s association is defending his assaulter. It makes more sense that suspensions be doled out by the NHLPA instead of the NHL.
The most recent example was during this spring’s playoff where repeat offender Raffi Torres applied a vicious hit to the head of star player Marian Hossa. The National Hockey League imposed a 25 game suspension which was quickly appealed by the NHLPA.

‘Who owns the problem?’

The NHLPA should re-write the charter on what constitutes a member in good standing, to include respect for their fellow members. Using their fists or sticks as weapons against each other should not be tolerated by the NHLPA. The NHLPA should not expect the NHL to have to protect players from each other.

Lindsay’s legacy

The NHLPA was formed by a heroic leader (and player) named Ted Lindsay (Duff, 2008). He formed the original NHLPA at a time when it was easy for owners to ostracize players who confronted the owners. It is now the time for a new heroic leader to come forward and move beyond the paradigm of a players’ association as a unified front vs. team owners. The players are extremely well-paid and are working under good labour conditions. The people who are hurting them and shortening their careers through assaults on the ice, are fellow members. An enhanced mandate of the NHLPA should include the enforcement of appropriate on-ice behavior and remove players who choose not to comply.

To go more deeply

Duff, B. (2008) Seven: A Salute to Ted Lindsay.1st ed. Olympia Entertainment
Kelly, M. (2012) Raffi Torres suspended 25 games by NHL for Hossa hit: Apr 21, 2012. Available at:
http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/nhl/story/2012/04/21/sp-raffi-torres-suspension.html (Accessed: 15 August 2012)
Ross, A. (2010) ‘Trust and Antitrust: The Failure of the First National Hockey League Players’ Association, 1957-1958’, University of Guelph
Available at: http://uoguelph.academia.edu/JAndrewRoss/Papers/480136/Trust_and_Antitrust_The_Failure_of_the_First_National_Hockey_League_Players_Association_1957_-1958
(Accessed: 26 July 2012)
The Canadian Press. (2012) NHL reduces Raffi Torres suspension by four games, Available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/nhl-reduces-raffi-torres-suspension-by-four-games/article4384878/ (Accessed: 15 August 2012)
CONSTITUTION OF THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE PLAYERS’ ASSOCIATION [Online]. Available at: http://www.nhlpa.com/docs/about-us/nhlpa_constitution.pdf
2011-12 Official NHL Rulebook [Online]. Available at: http://www.nhl.com/nhl/en/v3/ext/pdfs/2011-12_RULE_BOOK.pdf

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